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Moving effortlessly from Paris to Dresden to Shanghai, Wagenstein (Isaac's Torah) masterfully chronicles the lives of European émigrés and refugees in WWII Shanghai. The cast of this ensemble novel is large. Elisabeth and Theodore Weissberg, a German mezzo-soprano and her German-Jewish virtuoso violinist husband, flee Dresden to eke out an existence in Shanghai's burgeoning Jewish ghetto, which ends up 30,000 strong as the Shoah begins. Hilde Braun, a German-Jewish actress, is living illegally in Paris aided by a mysterious Slav named Vladek, until events force them, separately, to Shanghai. Istvan Keleti, a homosexual Hungarian musician and drug-user, and Gertrude von Dammbach, a former call-girl-turned-baroness, are also among the persecuted and displaced, some of whom work with the Resistance to undermine Hitler. Wagenstein is impressive in his ability to move from the small details of individual displaced lives to a larger panorama of international intrigue: there's a telling subplot about tensions between the Japanese, who occupy Shanghai, and the Germans, with whom they've formed an uneasy alliance; another revealing thread concerns the loyalties of Chinese Catholic nuns. Wagenstein brings to life a largely unknown chapter of Nazi persecution. (Nov.)
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Wagenstein intelligently interweaves the voices of several characters, whose common thread is their desire to live in safety. Winner of the 2004 Jean Monnet Award, this novel sheds light on a forgotten part of history that is only now becoming known. Recommended.
"Moving effortlessly from Paris to Dresden to Shanghai, Wagenstein (Isaac’s Torah) masterfully chronicles the lives of European émigrés and refugees in WWII Shanghai...Wagenstein is impressive in his ability to move from the small details of individual displaced lives to a larger panorama of international intrigue...[he] brings to life a largely unknown chapter of Nazi persecution"
San Francisco Chronicle
The Bulgarian novelist sets refugees, spies and a few true believers into play for a sprawling and utterly engaging book...the strong connections between the characters illustrate not only the persistence of human nature but also the illogic of war.
Grand Rapids Press
For readers and dreamers, doers and seekers, a book can make the holiday and the coming year more meaningful. Here are some good picks to fill out your shopping list...
Farewell, Shanghai,by Angel Wagenstein
World War II Shanghai is a terrible haven for many German Jews fleeing the Nazis. Wagenstein, a Bulgarian whose book has been translated into English, has crafted a tense tale of love and loss, war and peace that focuses on Shanghai, a place of stunning poverty and dazzling wealth.
Farewell, Shanghai captures this political and cultural maelstrom during World War II. Vividly written, paced like a thriller and rich with cinematic detail, the reader can practically smell the fetid, swampy air of the city. Wagenstein’s smoothly translated and fluid narrative has a sardonic edge...The riveting story of the Jews in Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s might seem hardly credible, but as Wagenstein archly says, “Is there anything more implausible than History?”
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
Wagenstein is one of Bulgaria’s greatest modern writers. In Farewell, Shanghai, he has constructed a fascinating and profoundly moving roman à clef.
National Jewish Post & Opinion
This is a narrative filled with barbarity and inhumanity leavened with fortitude and bravery. The fictional format chosen by the author provides an excellent vehicle for him to describe a relatively unfamiliar aspect of what happened to Jews during World War II. What he so ably sets forth has the true air of credibility, adding significantly to our knowledge about the Holocaust.